Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

Quick Thoughts:
  1. This is a quick and entertaining read.
  2. The author seems to believe that people are on the cusp of being extremely predictable.  In some ways, he continues the the same assault on bell curves that was in 'The Black Swan'.  He believes that we function by way of 'power rules' which basically mean that we do things in bursts (Hence the title of the book).
  3. I felt that the author was getting ahead of himself.  The best evidence in the book came from his research into cell phone records.  His team used them to see where people are when they make calls and found that they could predict (with an accuracy between 80% and 95%) where the person would be next.
  4. That sounds pretty impressive, and the author goes on to suggest all the positive/negative things people/companies/governments could do with this information.  
  5. This seems about as accurate as predicting the weather.  It really breaks down if you try to carry the prediction out over time.  If patterns were static this kind of information would be very powerful.  But patterns change all the time.  People move, have kids, change jobs, meet new people, etc...  Any of these life events can significantly change our movement patterns and completely screw up somebody's algorithm for predicting where people will be.  Also, is 80% predictable a good algorithm?  I think we're farther away from making good predictions than the author believes.
  6. I feel like the author confirmed, with data, what police detectives have known for awhile.  If you follow a person, chances are they will go to the same places, on the same days, at the same times.  If want to know where they will be, look at their history.
  7. The author blends the history of a failed crusade that resulted in lots of bloodshed.  I'm not convinced that it helped his overall points about our predictability.  I found the history lesson entertaining and a nice break from his research presentation.  I kept hoping he would find some brilliant way to connect the two themes of his book (The history lesson with the research presentation).  If he did, then I missed it.

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